Am I the only 26-year-old in the world who hates yoga?
I've tried to like yoga for years. Here's why I am giving it up for good.
When I was 12 years old, my mom brought me to a yoga class. For some reason, a photographer was snapping photos there. I was not a fan of this development, so in typical not quite child, not quite adult fashion, I glared at him the whole time.
A few weeks later, an article came out in a big Chicago newspaper about how younger people are getting into yoga. With a huge, feature photo of moi, doing yoga and closing my eyes in what must have been a vulnerable moment between glares. Teachers brought the paper in at school, and kids made fun of me.
Never be rude to a photographer.
Years passed, and all my friends got into yoga. It seemed that newspaper had been onto something after all; younger people were doing yoga. All of the younger people. "I loooooove yoga," my friends all proclaimed as one, man and woman, Midwesterner and New Yorker, exercise fanatic and video game junkie.
I decided to give yoga another chance. And another. Yoga with friends downtown. Yoga on the quad. Yoga with my roommates on the fire escape. Even now, I keep on trying yoga, and it always goes something like this:
"I'm going to a yoga class!" my friend says. "Want to come?"
"No thanks," I say. "I'm not that into yoga."
"You don't like yoga!!??" they ask like I just said I'm not into oxygen. "You must be doing it wrong. Yoga is amaaaamazing. You'll looooove it."
I think about it. Hm. Yoga. That sounds so nice and peaceful and healthy. Why didn't I like it last time? Maybe I was doing it wrong.
So I give it a go. At the class, we start on the first pose. But it doesn't feel nice and peaceful and healthy. It just hurts. The next pose too. And the next one. I end up giving up on poses midway through and staring really, really intensely at the incredibly slow moving clock. All the while, I'm surrounded by people who seem to be in a state of pure bliss. Are they faking it? I wonder. C'mon. Some of them must be faking it.
Finally, the minute hand blessedly frees us. On the way out, my friends immediately start talking about how amaaaamazing the class was. Do they really mean it? I wonder. Could they possibly mean it's amazing the way it feels amazing to be finished cleaning the bathroom? But no. They actually like the process. I don't get it.
I vow to never do yoga again. But after six months, I forget and end up in yet another sun salutation or warrior pose.
Yoga enthusiasts says that yoga is for everyone, that you should just do what you're comfortable with, that you can stretch any amount without getting a ticket from the yoga police. But you know what yoga enthusiasts have in common? They're all flexible. For them, stretching just a little means reaching for your toes rather than around your feet. I can often barely get a finger past my knees. And it still hurts. I'm pretty sure no endorphins get released in my brain when I do yoga.
I talked to Yoni Kallai, a yoga instructor from Jerusalem who currently teaches in Brooklyn, to try and figure out what I was missing.
"I just don't like yoga," I told him.
"I can relate to that," he replied. "I have not fallen in love with yoga."
"Straight up yoga is something I’ve tried a couple times and haven’t gotten into myself," he continued. Well, that was unexpected.
As it turned out, Kallai taught acroyoga, an activity that's actually much more like acrobatics than traditional yoga. (Last year, we wrote about how a group of acroyoga enthusiasts in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv displayed their moves with a pretty intense flash mob.)
Acroyoga ... Why did that sound familiar? It hit me: a few weeks earlier, I'd stayed in a B&B where a girl taught a group of us acroyoga. We all held each other up in circus-style positions that I was amazed I could manage. It had been fun and challenging, more like learning to do cool tricks than quietly stretching. I'd never even thought of it as yoga.
It was then that I realized why I hated yoga so much: in regular yoga, you don't do anything interesting. You just move from one unexciting but uncomfortable position into another. It hurts a little, sure, but I could get beyond that if I were actually doing something entertaining.
I'd been wrong for years: I don't hate yoga because it hurts. I hate yoga ... because yoga is boring.
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